Deborah Sampson Gannett, also known as Deborah Sampson and Deborah Samson, was one of the first women to serve in the American Revolution, and by extension in the United States military in general. She disguised herself as a man, serving under the name Robert Shurtliff.
Sampson joined the 4th Massachusetts Regiment in the spring of 1782. She served as a combat soldier for 18 months and was involved in several skirmishes. On July 3, 1782, she was shot twice in the thigh in a battle outside Tarrytown, New York. Sampson was taken to a hospital, but left before doctors could remove the musket balls from her leg. She was later able to remove one of them herself, but the wound never fully healed.
During the summer of 1783, Sampson became ill in Philadelphia and was cared for by Doctor Barnabas Binney, who discovered she was a woman. She was quickly discharged from the army, but did not receive a reprimand as other women in the same situation had.
Sampson returned to Sharon and married Benjamin Gannett, a local farmer, on April 7, 1785. She made history again in 1792 by petitioning the state for a military pension, which, with the help of Paul Revere, was approved, making her the first American woman to receive a military pension. After she died, her husband applied for and received a widower’s pension.
Sampson’s efforts to join the army scandalized the town in the 18th century, but after the war ended, the town quickly adopted her as a local hero. This status is plainly evident as you stand at her grave site. The marker is draped with an American flag, and other monuments honoring Sampson have been placed nearby. In warm weather, there are always flowers placed by her grave. There is also a plaque honoring her on the Soldiers and Sailors Monument slightly north of Sampson’s grave site.
Know Before You Go
Rock Ridge Cemetery is located on East Street in Sharon, Massachusetts. Deborah's grave is located in the southeast corner of the cemetery, near Mountain Street.